Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Fredericksburg Ghost Story

Sometimes while researching I come across something completely unexpected.  While preparing for a lecture about Civil War women diarist in Fredericksburg I came across this amazing story that I would like to share.

General John Minor was a solider in Revolutionary War and a general in the War of 1812.  Minor entered politics and was an associate of James Monroe.  A respected member of Fredericksburg, Minor had a large family and a large plantation called Hazel Hill.  In June of 1816, Minor was in Richmond, Virginia attending the General Assembly when the following events occurred.  This story was recorded by Minor's granddaughter Mary Isabella Blackford (1841-1928):

"My mother never did tell me this ghost story at all.  I never heard it till after I was grown...My grandmother had kept it a dead secret forty years.  The servants had strict orders not to mention it in Fredericksburg or anywhere.  In those days servants had to mind.  As far as I know, they never did tell it.

"General Minor was at that time a member of the General Assembly that was meeting in Richmond.  My grandmother was not expecting him at all.  She was sitting in her dining room at Hazel Hill about 6 o'clock that evening...with her sons, their tutor and my mother, when suddenly the door opened and the butler, an elderly colored man, came in and said, 'Mistress, did you know Master had come?'  She rose from the table quite excited and said, 'No, Ben, I was not expecting General Minor.  Where is he?'

"Then they all followed Ben out in the hall and saw [the General] at the lower end and just about to go upstairs.  He turned a moment and looked at them and then went on up.  He was in full evening dress.  They could see his hand on the banister as he went up, and the ruffles at his wrist.  Some went upstairs and searched every room but he was no where to be found.  The family were all excited and distressed, not knowing what to think.

"At that very moment General Minor was at the Governor's Mansion attending a state dinner.  Several hours later a man on horseback, his horse covered with foam, dashed into he yard with a letter to Grandma telling the sad news of the General's sudden death at the dinner party." (Source: Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory: The Story of a Virginia Lady Mary Berkeley Minor Blackford 1802-1896 Who Taught Her Sons to Hate Slavery and to Love the Union by L. Minor Blackford (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1954) pg. 8-9).

Sadly, Hazel Hill no longer stands, but there is a historical marker detailing the history of the property and Minor's accomplishments.  For more information on Hazel Hill here.

General John Minor's remains were returned to Fredericksburg and buried in the Fredericksburg Masonic Cemetery.  Visit his Find a Grave page here.

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